Huxter - how the online clothing company signalled a homecoming for its founder
PUBLISHED: 00:00 06 October 2017 | UPDATED: 14:58 06 October 2017
When Army wife Sophie Bell-Carr made her twelfth move in eight years little did she know it was a homecoming. She spoke to Roger Borrell.
After travelling the world as the wife of a British Army officer, Sophie Bell-Carr made her first trip to her husband’s new posting in Lancashire and had ‘a strange feeling that I was coming home.’
It was only after she had enrolled her two sons at Kirkham Grammar School that she found out why she was so relaxed coming to a county she’d never visited. ‘My father died when I was ten,’ explains Sophie. ‘He lived in Ilfracombe and we’d always assumed that he was from the west country.
‘After we’d moved here my mother called me and said she had come across some old family papers in a drawer that showed he was actually from Lancashire and his family ran a garage business not far from here at Lea near Preston. That was a complete surprise – none of us had any idea he was from here.’
If that took Sophie by surprise what her mother told her next was, in her own words, astounding. ‘Mum also found his old school reports and dad had been a pupil at Kirkham Grammar. I couldn’t believe it. I suppose it explained why I had such a nice feeling when we first arrived.’
That feeling has continued – so much so that Sophie and her husband, Rob, have bought a house near Wrea Green and she has created her own business in a beautiful converted farm building - it’s actually the old pigsty – at Clifton Fields.
‘We had 12 moves in eight years and it was becoming too much me and for the kids,’ says Sophie, whose husband is taking up a senior role based in Preston after a tour of duty in Kuwait.
However, Sophie needed a little more than domestic bliss to stimulate her. ‘I’ve always loved textiles – I got a BA in textile design and worked in London for well-known companies such as Osborne and Little. Then I stupidly married someone in the Army,’ she laughs. ‘I found myself following in his footsteps and that totally curtails your career.’
The Lancashire posting meant she was able to go to UCLan to study for an MA and during that time, fed up by a lack of imagination in the kids’ clothing market, she started to make leggings for her son, Huxley. ‘People saw them and started buying Huxley’s pants. I used Facebook to get the message out and things have grown organically and I’m now making a living.’
She quickly outgrew the garage at home and the business – called Huxter after her boys Huxley, four, and Buster, aged seven – sustains a seamstress and, when she finds the right recruit, there will also be a cutting assistant.
Everything is handmade and bespoke using jersey fabric. Customers chose the items and fabrics from a range and Sophie matches the coordinating fabrics. She doesn’t buy in bulk so when it’s gone, it’s gone, making them unique items. And she is unapologetic about her colour selections. ‘Some people might find the colours too bright and too clashing but I was totally fed up with browns and greens. That’s really why this whole adventure started.’
From leggings, the business has progressed to hoodies, dresses, rompers and sweaters now with some lines for adults as well as children. Future plans include more for adults and designing more of her own fabrics.
Her network of army wives – built up during many postings at home and overseas – has helped to spread the word about Huxter and her clothes have been despatched to customers as far away as Australia.
She has also incorporated some element of military insignia in some of her fabric designs, including the dresses worn by two young girls attending a military honours presentation to their dads at Buckingham Palace.
‘None of this would have been possible without my husband Rob’s support,’ says Sophie, 40. ‘I wasn’t well after giving birth to Buster and I needed to get back to work. Rob gave me the confidence to say that if we are going to do this, we are going to do it properly.
‘I’m now a totally different person. I’m so much happier after seeing how Huxter has grown.’
You can find our more at www.huxterkids.com